A WordPress site with a good speed ensures fast loading pages that improves user experience, hence increased page views and a better SEO. In this article we look ways of improving your WordPress site speed and Performance.
Why Speed is important for your WordPress site
You have very little time to show users your content and convince them to stay on your site. A slow website means users will potentially leave your website before it even loads. This will translate to reduction in conversions, page views and customer satisfaction besides Google and other search engines penalizes slower websites by pushing them down in the search results which means lower traffic for slower websites. Therefore to ensure more traffic, subscribers, and revenue from your website, you have to make it load faster.
You can test your website speed using a tool like Pingdom This is a free online tool that allows you to test your website’s speed from different locations. A good page load time is under 2 seconds. However the faster you can make it, the better it is. A few milliseconds of improvements can reduce even up to a second of your load time.
Causes of slow website
The primary causes for slow WordPress website are:
- Web Hosting – When your web hosting server is not properly configured it can hurt your website speed.
- WordPress Configuration – If your WordPress site is not serving cached pages, then it will overload your server thus causing your website to be slow or crash entirely.
- Page Size – Mainly images that aren’t optimized for web
- Bad Plugins – If you are using a poorly coded plugin, then it can significantly slow down your website.
- External scripts – External scripts such as ads, font loaders can also have an impact on your website performance.
Importance of a good WordPress Hosting
Shared hosting providers like Bluehost and Siteground also makes sure that they provide an optimized website performance however on a shared hosting you share server resources with many other customers. This means that if your neighboring site gets a lot of traffic, then it can impact the entire server performance which in turn will slow down your website.
On the other hand using a Managed WordPress hosting service gives you the optimized server configurations to run WordPress. Managed WordPress hosting offers automatic backups. automatic WordPress updates, and more advanced security configurations to protect your website
How to Speed up your WordPress in Easy steps without coding
- Install a WordPress Caching Plugin – WordPress pages are, dynamic, this means they are built on the fly every time someone visits a post or a page on your website. To build your pages, WordPress has to run a process to find the required information, put it all together, and then display it to your user. This process involves a lot of steps, and it can really slow down your website when you have multiple people visiting your site at once. That is why Caching plugin is recommended for WordPress users. Caching can make your WordPress site 2 to 5 times faster. Instead of going through the whole page generation process every time, the caching plugin makes a copy of the page after the first load, and then serves that cached version to every subsequent user.
From the graphics above, when a user visits your WordPress site, which is built using PHP, your server retrieves information from a MySQL databases and your PHP files, and then it is all put together into a HTML content which is served to the user. To avoid the long process you can use the caching instead. The recommended caching plugin that you can use is the WP Super cache plugin. Please note that, if you are using a Managed WordPress hosting then you don’t need a caching plugin because this is taken care of.
- Optimize Images for Speed- Images brings life to your content and help boost engagement but if your images aren’t optimized, they could be hurting more than helping. In most cases, non-optimized images are one of the most common causes of speed issues on new websites. Before you upload a photo directly from your phone camera, use photo editing software to optimize your images for web. In their original formats, the photos have huge file sizes. But based on the image size format and the compression you choose in your editing software, you can decrease your image by up to 5 times. We have 2 image formats that you can use JPEG and PNG. PNG image format is uncompressed. When compressed an image loses some information, so an uncompressed image will be higher quality with more detail. The downside is that it is larger file size, so it takes longer to load. JPEG on the other hand, is a compressed file format which slightly reduces image quality, but it is significantly smaller in size. You can decide which photo to use basing on the following factors:
- If our photo or image has a lot of different colors, then we use JPEG
- If it is a simpler image or we need a transparent image,then we use PNG
Majority of the images are JPEGs. Below is a comparison chart of the file sizes and different compression tools.
From the chart above, the image format you use can make a big difference on your website performance.
Use WordPress Performance Optimization Best Practices
- Keep your WordPress website updated – As a well maintained open source project, WordPress is updated frequently. Each update will not only offer new features, but also fix security issues and bugs. Your WordPress theme and plugins may have regular updates too. As a blog or website owner you need to keep your WordPress site, Plugins, and Themes updated to the latest versions. If you don’t do so, it makes your site slow and unreliable, and also makes the site vulnerable to security threats.
- Use Excerpts on Homepage and Archives – By default WordPress displays the full content of each article on your homepage and archives. This means your homepage, categories, tags and other archives will load slower. Also if you show full articles, users don’t feel the need to visit the actual article. This can reduce your page views and the time your users spend time on your site. In order to speed up your loading times for archive pages, you can set your site to display excerpts instead of full content. Navigate to Settings >>Reading and select ” For each article in a feed, show: Summary instead of Full text
- Split Comments into Pages – It is good to get lots of comments on your blog posts, since it shows audience engagement. But this has its downside, as the loading of all comments can impact your site’s speed. To avoid this, Simply go to Settings >> Discussion and check the box to the ” Break comments into pages” option.
- Don’t upload Videos directly to WordPress – Although you can directly upload videos to your WordPress site, and it will automatically display them in an HTML 5 player, you should never do it. Hosting videos will cost you bandwidth. You could be charged overage fee by your web hosting company, or they may even shut down your site altogether, even if your plan includes ”unlimited” bandwidth. Hosting videos also increases your backup sizes tremendously, and makes it difficult for you to restore WordPress from backup. To avoid this, you should use a video hosting service like YouTube, DailyMotion, Vimeo etc. WordPress has a built-in-video embed feature, so you can copy and paste your video’s URL directly into your post and it will embed automatically.
- Use a Theme optimized for speed – Pay attention to speed optimization when shopping for a website’s theme. Go for a simpler and quality theme to get the features you need.
- Use a Faster Slider Plugin – using a poorly coded slider plugin will lead to your website loading slowly.
- Use a Faster Gallery Plugin – In case you have a photography website then you’ll probably use an image gallery plugin to display photos. Make sure you use a WordPress gallery plugin that is optimized for speed like Envira gallery which is one of the best WordPress gallery plugin. It allows you to create beautiful image galleries that are fast to load.
Fine Tuning WordPress for Speed (Advance)
These tips require more technical knowledge since they will require you to modify your site files or have a basic understanding of PHP. You will need to backup your site.
- Split long Posts into pages – Some readers tend to love long blog posts that are more in-depth. Longer posts even tend to rank higher in search engines but publishing long posts or articles with lots of images could increase your load time. Instead, consider splitting up your longer posts into multiple pages. WordPress comes with built-in functionality that can do that. Simply add the tag<!––nextpage––> in your article where you want to split it into next page. Do that again if you want to split the article on to the next page as well.
- Reduce External HTTP Requests – Many WordPress plugins and themes load all kinds of files from other websites. These files can include scripts, style sheets, and images from external resources like Google, Facebook, Analytics services etc. It isn’t a problem to have some of them on your site. Many of these files are optimized to load as quickly as possible so it is faster than hosting them on your own website. But if your plugins are making a lot of these requests, then it could slow down your website. You can reduce all these external HTTP requests by disabling scripts and styles or merging them into one file.
- Reduce Database calls – Poorly coded WordPress themes end up making direct database calls, or too many unnecessary requests to the database. This can really slow down your server by giving it too much work to do.
- Optimize WordPress Database – After using WordPress for a while, your database will have a lots of information that you probably don’t need any more. For improved performance, you can optimize your database to get rid of all the unnecessary information. This can be managed with the WP-Sweep Plugin. It allows you to clean your WordPress database by deleting things like Trashed posts, revisions, unused tags etc. It will also optimize your database’s structure.
- Limit Post revisions – Post revisions take up space in your WordPress database. If the plugin doesn’t specifically exclude post revisions, it might slow down your site by searching through them unnecessarily. You can easily limit the number of revisions WordPress keeps for each article. Simply add this code to your wp-config.php file: define( ‘WP_POST_REVISIONS’, 4); This coded will limit WordPress to only save your last 4 revisions of each post or page and discard older revisions automatically.
- Disable Hotlinking and Leaching of your content –Your content can easily be taken by other people. This can happen when other sites serve your images directly from their URLs on your website, instead of uploading them to their own servers. They are in fact stealing your web hosting bandwidth without you getting any traffic out of it. You can block hotlinking of images from your WordPress site. Get more help on how to do this from your WordPress host.
You can also read: WordPress Plugins you may need on your Blog